Rep. Mike Zabel is accused of sexual misconduct. Here’s what to know
A Democratic representative from Delaware County was accused with sexual misconduct Wednesday by a lobbyist from one of the state’s top unions.
Rep. Mike Zabel (D., Delaware) allegedly sexually harassed a lobbyist for Service Employees International Union 32BJ in 2019, lobbyist Andi Perez told Spotlight PA. Perez previously shared her experience, without naming Zabel, at a listening tour event organized by then-Speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks).
Zabel is accused of acting inappropriately toward at least three of his female colleagues, according to Perez and two other reports.
Who is Mike Zabel?
Zabel represents portions of Delaware County, including parts of Upper Darby and Drexel Hill. He has represented the 163rd District since his election in 2018.
The Delco native previously served as an assistant district attorney, and has taught at the middle school, high school, and college levels, according to his biography. He also is an attorney who practiced at Rudolph Clarke LLP, though he was no longer listed at the firm as of Thursday.
While in the General Assembly, the 44-year-old lawmaker has focused on health care and education issues, such as rising insulin prices and increasing education funding.
He lives in Drexel Hill with his wife and two children. He grew up in Havertown as the oldest of six children.
What are the allegations?
Perez alleges Zabel “decided to caress my leg — I was wearing a skirt — all the while telling me he was impressed by my passion and knowledge of the issues we were discussing,” Perez said during the Jan. 27 event at St. Joseph’s University.
“I moved away from him, hoping he would stop,” Perez added as part of her remarks. “He did not.”
Perez told Spotlight PA that she reported the incident to House Democratic leaders the day it occurred. She also filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee, but was told she could not make the filing because she wasn’t a House employee. She shared her experience at the January event in an effort to push lawmakers to reform its rules protecting employees from sexual harassment.
Other accusations against Zabel
Zabel is the subject of at least two other reports of sexual misconduct.
His former campaign manager accused Zabel of allegedly inappropriately touching her and making uncomfortable remarks while intoxicated.
And a female lawmaker anonymously told conservative website Broad and Liberty that Zabel allegedly followed her to her car after she rejected his advances at a November event.
What happens now?
House Democratic leaders said Wednesday they were “concerned by the allegations we learned today, and take such accusations seriously.” House lawmakers on the state House Ethics Committee will review Zabel’s case, as well as any complaints from a five-year period.
“We are committed to creating and maintaining a work environment free from discrimination and harassment,” House Democrats said in a statement.
The House Ethics Committee now will be tasked with deciding whether any action should be taken against Zabel. Members were appointed to the eight-person panel on Thursday, including Reps. Donna Bullock (D., Philadelphia), Mary Isaacson (D., Philadelphia), Nancy Guenst (D., Montgomery), and Tim Brennan (D., Bucks). Bullock is the Democratic chair, and Rep. Katie Klunk (R., York) is the Republican chair.
House Republicans quickly called for Zabel to resign, describing him as a “serial predator” known by Democratic leaders. Perez, the lobbyist, also called for his resignation.
So far, House Democrats have not asked their colleague to step down.
Past sexual misconduct allegations in the Pennsylvania House
Several other Pennsylvania state lawmakers have been accused of sexual misconduct in the last few years.
Former Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R., Delaware) was accused of physical and sexual assault in 2018, including of another Republican lawmaker. GOP leaders stripped Miccarelli of his committee assignments and called on him to resign, but he remained in office through the end of his term.
Another former House member, Rep. Brian Ellis (R., Butler), resigned six days after a woman filed a complaint with House Republicans alleging Ellis sexually assaulted her.
Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Philadelphia) was charged by police in 2021 with harassment and violating a protection from abuse order filed by his wife. Boyle lost his spot as minority chairman of the House Finance Committee due to the charges, and his access to the Capitol was limited. He agreed to undergo a mental health evaluation as part of the criminal investigation against him.
At the time, Republicans urged Boyle to resign. Democrats did not, and praised him for getting treatment for “ongoing health challenges.”